"It's An Honor": President Obama Visiting McKinley High

Jan 14, 2016

McKinley student Kaiya Smith speaks with Sue Lincoln about President Obama's visit.
Credit Chelsea Schilling

The principal, staff and students at McKinley High School are in agreement.

“It’s an honor.”

“We are just so honored and proud to have him here.”

“Everybody’s excited.”

“It’s really an honor, and it’s really something to be proud of.”

“We just can’t stop talking about it.”

Of course, they’re still a bit stunned over today’s visit by President Obama. Principal Herman Brister says everyone –- faculty and students – only found out Monday that the nation’s chief executive would be coming to the Baton Rouge school.

“It’s been business as usual for them,” Brister said of faculty and students.” But for me, I think it’s been a little different,” he added, with a chuckle.

For teacher Pam Middlebrook’s civics and AP government classes, the visit is the topic in class.

“We’re actually on the presidency right now. One student said, ‘I can’t believe we’re talking about the President, and the President’s coming to our school’.”

Middlebrook’s classes will be tweeting about the presidential visit today, using #ObamaMcK.

Chelsea Schilling, a McKinley alum, now teaches senior English at the school. She’s also the coach of the poetry slam team, and asked two of her team members to compose “spoken word” presentations for the President’s visit.

“I was raised by a single mother, who I talk about in my poem that I wrote for the President,” explains senior Amber E’v Torrence. “She’s from a small town that was very much segregated, and so, for the first black President to come to the school where me and my sister have or will have graduated from, is so impactful to me.”

 

Senior Kaiya Smith took a different angle for her poem.

 

“My poem is going into historical figures like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and then tying them in how Barack Obama –- President Barack Obama, my bad – basically asking him questions of how he’s going to look back on his presidency.”

Neither of the young ladies will be able to perform their poetry pieces for the President, as there’s limited time for the assembly, and limited attendance for the students. Only 20 students from the school were selected – by lottery – to attend the assembly in the high school’s gym. The poems, framed, will be presented to the president, however.

Though all the students we spoke with expressed some disappointment at not being able to actually be in the audience for the event, all of them said essentially the same thing:

“It’s okay. I’m on campus when he’s visiting, and I’ll get to watch it—and my school—on TV.”